A cystoscopy is a test that allows doctors to see the inside of your bladder. A cystoscope is a long thin tube that is passed into your bladder. It has a small camera on one end which sends back images to your doctor and can also be used to position small surgical instruments to take biopsies or perform minor surgery.
A referral letter from a consultant or GP is required before booking any diagnostic investigation.
Cystoscopy involves looking inside your bladder to check for any problems, including bladder cancer. It can also be used to treat certain conditions. If you’re having this test or treatment it’s possible that:
There are two types of cystoscopy:
Flexible cystoscopy can help your doctor confirm what, if any, problems there are so that they can plan treatment for you.
Alternatively, your doctor might perform a rigid cystoscopy to monitor an existing condition or to perform minor surgery to treat it.
The cystoscope is a thin, flexible (flexible cystoscopy) or rod-like (rigid cystoscopy) tube that is inserted through the urethra (the tube through which urine leaves your body). You’ll have either a local or general anaesthetic, largely depending on whether you are having a flexible or rigid cystoscopy.
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You will need a referral letter from a consultant or GP before booking any diagnostic investigation.
You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
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Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having any test or surgery, even one as common as a cystoscopy, can cause anxiety. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there to reassure you throughout.
You’ll be given a local anaesthetic but this is usually a gel placed into the opening of the urethra.
The flexible cystoscope is then passed carefully through your urethra and sends images to a screen where your consultant urologist can look for any abnormalities.
The procedure typically takes around ten minutes and you’ll be able to leave the hospital once it’s done.
The rigid version of the cystoscope is a thin metal tube through which small surgical instruments can be passed to remove tissue or carry out treatment inside your urinary system.
It’s usually performed while you’re asleep after having had a general anaesthetic.
The rigid cystoscope will be passed through your urethra in the same way as the flexible one. If appropriate, small surgical instruments will then be passed down the cystoscope. For example, small bladder stones are sometimes removed this way.
At the end of the procedure, the cystoscope is removed. A catheter (a fine flexible tube) may be passed into the urethra to drain urine from the bladder into a bag. This may still be in place when you come round from the operation.
You might need to stay in hospital for a couple of nights depending on the extent of your treatment, the type of anaesthetic used and your general health.
After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you're ready to go home.
If you’ve just had a quick test and a gel was used as a local anaesthetic you should be able to leave the hospital straight after the procedure.
After a flexible cystoscopy, you may feel a small amount of discomfort, which should settle in a few hours. Following a rigid cystoscopy, after a catheter is removed there is likely to be some discomfort in the urethra, especially when passing urine. This should settle after about 48 hours. There may be some blood in the urine. Depending on the extent of the surgery, this may last for 10 to 14 days. Continue taking painkillers as advised by the hospital.
Once home after a flexible cystoscopy, it’s sensible to take it easy for the rest of the day. Most people feel able to resume normal activities the following day. You should aim to drink about two litres of water over the course of 24 hours, to help flush out the system. If you see blood in your urine, drink a little extra water and rest for an hour or two. If you continue to pass blood tinged urine for more than 24 hours, please call the hospital for advice.
After a rigid cystoscopy, follow your surgeon’s advice about driving, returning to work, heavy lifting, sport and sexual activity. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and high fibre foods as this helps to avoid constipation, which may increase bleeding in the bladder. You can use a mild laxative if necessary. Try and drink enough water to keep you hydrated. This will dilute your urine and help reduce any burning sensation when passing urine. However, do not drink excessively, as this can be harmful.
If you have had a biopsy taken, the results will be ready several days later and will usually be sent in a report to the doctor who recommended the test. Other findings can be discussed before you go home. You will also be given a contact telephone number for the hospital, in case you need to ask for any further advice.
Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way.
As with any medical treatment, complications following cystoscopy can occur. These include urinary tract infection, and in rare cases, damage to the urethra or bladder. Most people are unaffected. If you experience any of these symptoms – discharge or persistent burning when you urinate or continue to pass blood-tinged urine for more than 24 hours, heavily blood stained urine - call us straight away. Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.
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The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.